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Veterans Marjorie Sheehan and Horace Byford at the D-Day and Battle of Normandy commemorative ceremony in Dieppe, N.B., on June 5, 2024. Image: Tara Clow

80th anniversary ceremonies for D-Day and Battle of Normandy

By Tara Clow Jun 5, 2024 | 2:48 PM

D-Day and the Battle of Normandy was one of the most significant chapters in Canada’s military history.

On June 6, 1944, around 14,000 Canadian troops from the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade stormed the beaches of Normandy.

Horace Byford, who is now 104 years old, served on a destroyer as a gunner with the Royal Artillery.

His memories are vague, but he remembers they were firing over land to soften up the German troops who were firing down on Canadians who were landing.

“We did convoy duty. Memories are wonderful things to be able to cast back and remember,” Byford says.

Marjorie Sheehan, who is 102 years old, served with the Overseas Detachment of the Canadian Red Cross.

“I have memories of London and the V1 bombs and the V2 bombs. We had to run for shelter down to the bottom of our building because we never knew when we were going to be hit.”

More than 90,000 Canadian soldiers who had volunteered to serve Canada during the Second World War saw action in the Normandy Campaign.

During the 11-week campaign, more than 5,000 Canadian soldiers were killed and another 13,000 were injured.

“Sadly, all of the girls I went overseas with have all passed. We had a very strong bond, and after the war, we got together to talk about those days. I am very, very happy to be able to be here. I remember the scary days, but the wonderful days we had together,” Sheehan adds.

The Normandy campaign officially came to a close in late August 1944.

Celebrations and commemorative ceremonies are being held on Wednesday and  Thursday as dignitaries and veterans recognize the 80th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly, will attend on behalf of Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence Ginette Petitpas Taylor,  Governor General Mary Simon, and other dignitaries will attend in Moncton, New Brunswick.

A national event will also be held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

Byford felt proud to be able to attend Wednesday’s wreath laying at Place 1604 in Dieppe, New Brunswick, “When the call comes to serve your country, step forward. That’s what we did.”

Both Byford and Sheehan agree that reminders and educating others about Canadian history are important.

“I think it is a very good thing because we have never had a major war on Canadian soil in comparison to what Europe went through. We just don’t know the hazards and the tragedies of war. That is something that very few, even adult Canadians really know anything about unless they participated,” Byford says.

Sheehan says it’s very important, “Because a lot of young people don’t seem to know much about our history. This is very important that the public is made aware of what we are still celebrating and I hope will continue to celebrate. It is so worthwhile.”

Image: Tara Clow

Image: Tara Clow

Image: Tara Clow